LA earns shutout win against Elks

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By Mike Cote

Tuesday was Emilee Jones’ 17th birthday and she was being pretty stingy with the party favors she was giving out to the Pojoaque Valley Elks.
Jones, a pitcher for the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team, threw six innings of shutout ball against the Elks in their game at Overlook Park. Jones limited Pojoaque Valley to just three hits and didn’t allow a runner past second base.
Meanwhile, the Hilltopper bats got hot, thanks in no small part to the added offensive firepower from Erin Kirk, Kiana Zerr and Krista Salazar, just returning to the team from basketball, as the Hilltoppers closed out the Elks 10-0 in 6 innings.
Los Alamos broke open a tight ballgame in the fifth inning, pushing 3 runs across, then closed out the game in the sixth inning with a 4-run rally.
Meanwhile, Jones quelled Pojoaque Valley’s offense, which had scored 20 runs in a doubleheader against Los Alamos’ District 2-4A rival Santa Fe last weekend. She worked the inside corner of the plate for much of the game, working in both fastballs and breaking balls to keep Pojoaque Valley’s hitters guessing.
“We were focused a lot on our spots and hitting our spots,” Jones said. “I was using the curve against this team. It felt good.”
Jones managed to stay out of trouble for much of the game. One of the few jams she got into was in the top of the first, issuing a walk and a bloop single with two outs, but struck out the next batter looking to end the threat by the Elks (0-3).
Los Alamos (2-5) has struggled early on this season getting hits with runners on base, but right fielder Lucia Fajardo came through early in the contest.
Fajardo singled in Kirk in the second inning to break the scoreless tie — Kirk led off the inning with a double in her first plate appearance of the season — then drove in another run on a sacrifice fly to center in the third inning.
Afterward, Fajardo said she got a couple of pitches out over the plate from Pojoaque Valley pitcher Kyra Romero that she could drive and took advantage of those.
Romero is an unorthodox pitcher, taking lots of time between pitches and throwing lots of off-speed pitches and lots of breaking balls.
“We had to time her better,” Fajardo said. “We had to wait and move up in the box. We prepared to hit it and today we did that pretty well.”
Los Alamos put its lead-off hitter of the inning on base four times in the ballgame. Catcher Micaela Christensen led off both the third and sixth with doubles to the fence in left field and came around to score both times.
“Halfway through the game we started getting those hits and laying down bunts,” Los Alamos manager Roger Anaya said. “That’s important when the game is close and we need to manufacture some runs.”
In all, Los Alamos pounded out 13 hits, five of them for extra bases. Zerr had a run-scoring triple in the fifth and Kristin Christensen had a double in the sixth.
Kirk went 3-for-4 from the plate with a RBI and scored two runs. Micaela and Kristin Christensen were both 2-for-4 and combined to score three runs, while Salazar drove in two runs with a single in the fifth.
Tuesday’s win snapped a two-game skid for the Hilltoppers, who lost those games to Class 4A teams Miyamura and Moriarty. They have a critical game at St. Pius X next week.
Jones, who struck out five hitters, said she thinks the team is starting to find its rhythm and getting its basketball players back is shoring things up in a hurry.
“I think if (the defense) is playing good, I’ll throw good for them,” she said. “We have confidence in each other.”